Iran’s Urmia Lake: Desiccation, Diplomacy, And The Disaffected

Via AquaDoc, an interesting link to a report on Iran’s Urmia Lake, a very tough problem involving elements of hydrology, water resources management, water use, and ethnic tensions:

Urmia Lake, or Lake Urmia if you prefer, is an iconic water body in Iran and indeed, the region and the world. It is a saline lake and because of water withdrawals and increasing population in its basin, it is desiccating. When full, it was, in terms of surface area, the largest lake in the Middle East and the sixth largest salt lake in the world. 

Take a look at these graphics from the aforementioned report:

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Here is a photo of the lake in October 1984:


Wow! Aral Sea, anyone? 

The report is brief and a quick read. It does offer some paths forward. But it neglects mention of the Azeri Turks and Kurds who are concerned about the lake’s future and are marginalized. If you’re talking diplomacy, then you need to talk about all stakeholders. Seems like a big hole to me, especially at a workshop on diplomacy. 

Here is a more detailed technical discussion of Urmia Lake and its problems:

AghaKouchak A., Norouzi H., Madani K., Mirchi A., Azarderakhsh M., Nazemi N., Nasrollahi N., Mehran M., Farahmand A., Hasanzadeh E., 2015, ‘Aral Sea Syndrome Desiccates Lake Urmia: Call for Action’, Journal of Great Lakes Research, 41(1), 307-311, doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2014.12.007.

Download 15_Urmia_JGLR

Abstract. Lake Urmia, one of the largest saltwater lakes on earth and a highly endangered ecosystem, is on the brink of a major environmental disaster similar to the catastrophic death of the Aral Sea. With a new composite of multi-spectral high resolution satellite observations, we show that the area of this Iranian lake has decreased by around 88% in the past decades, far more than previously reported (~ 25% to 50%). The lake’s shoreline has been receding severely with no sign of recovery, which has been partly blamed on prolonged droughts. We use the lake basin’s satellite-based gauge-adjusted climate record of the Standardized Precipitation Index data to demonstrate that the on-going shoreline retreat is not solely an artifact of prolonged droughts alone. Drastic changes to lake health are primarily consequences of aggressive regional water resources development plans, intensive agricultural activities, anthropogenic changes to the system, and upstream competition over water. This commentary is a call for action to both develop sustainable restoration ideas and to put new visions and strategies into practice before Lake Urmia falls victim to the Aral Sea syndrome. 

Tough problem – hydrology, water resources management, water use, ethnic tensions….

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 at 3:16 pm and is filed under Iran.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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